Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen

Did you miss the earlier posts in this kitchen organization series? Catch up here: Menu Planning, Favorite Recipe Lists, Recipe Binder and Creating a Homemaking Binder. Stay tuned for more posts on topics like bulk storage, pantry and freezer organization, and soaking/fermenting!


This is a guest post from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship’s kitchen. Yep, the kitchen. Katie has been just swamped with the Real Food Face-Off and a few healthy foods carnivals, so she took the photos and turned the job over to me.

A big stress in the kitchen for any cook can be the WHERE question: “Where do I put all this stuff while I work?!” If your kitchen is small, like me (I prefer “petite”), you have to get creative.

Here’s my headshot: Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen

Yes, that’s the full extent of the workspace for a real food kitchen. Katie had her husband install a few shelves like this for extra “setting stuff” space:

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen

Most people just set things on the counter, but Katie has found a few unique places (I call them my secret gems) where she can stash something while she’s working. For example, did you know that little space between a double sink at the front is actually perfect for balancing a glass jar, a small pot, or even a plate of pancakes or tortillas?

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen And you CAN set a colander of cooked beans on top of your dirty dishes in the sink. That’s a great place to set something that you’ll be using again, too, as long as you’re the only one working and no one will set something dirty on top of it.

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen

Wonder where you can store your soaking oatmeal, especially if you let it go 24 hours? It always used to get in the way, but a reader mentioned she stores her soaking stuff in here when she’s not using the oven:

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen Just make sure you do this to remind yourself NOT to turn it on!

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen Glass jars that come out of the dishwasher and need to be completely dry before being capped live on top of the toaster oven for a few hours to a day. That way the heat can help them dry, and the toaster won’t hurt them like it would plastic or food.

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen Dishes are Katie’s least favorite part of the kitchen. She’s considering patenting the phrase, “And you KNOW how I feel about dishes!” The worst part of that job is balancing everything in the drying rack if she doesn’t have hubby to back her up with the dish towel. Wiping off the counter to make sure you have a clean space to set clean dishes is a key step. Here is another creative idea:

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen Pots are flipped upside down to dry, and there’s plenty of air circulation because of the gas range burners. I don’t know how this would work with a flat-top stove. Katie also is lazy enough to store her cast iron pans (at least one of them) on the stove at all times.

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small KitchenAll right, Kitchen! That’s enough! This is Katie here. I’m embarrassed that you shared those pictures of the shelves. What IS all that stuff??? It’s scary to see my counter in pictures. Sourdough starters and apple cider fermenting into ACV and milk thawing to make mozzarella cheese…all these things take space!

I hope this silly post gives some of you some random ideas for a small kitchen (excuse me: petite) and makes you feel validated about having messy counters. You’re not alone! And I’ve been working on it. I went through my pantry and pulled out everything that I don’t need truly at close reach. That made room for all my glass jars to be behind doors, and I got smarter about what I store on surfaces. It’s a relief to have more counter space and the kitchen feels so much more open. See?

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Notes from a Small Kitchen

Katie blogs at Kitchen Stewardship, which is dedicated to the mission of taking baby steps to balancing stewardship of all God’s gifts. The four pillars of Kitchen Stewardship are health, environment, time and money. Weekly Monday Missions give practical tips for making one change at a time to improve your kitchen practices through faith.

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  1. I have a lack of counter space for the amount of appliances we have, and I think I can rearrange some things and reorganize a bit to accommodate them…thanks for this inspiration!

    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Tin Can Decor! =-.

  2. LOL this is too funny. I wonder why houses get built with so little counter space. We actually looked at several houses that I walked into, then out of, because they ONLY had counter space on either side of the sink, like 3 feet total. Yikes! They must not cook, or do dishes. One side of that would be dirty, the other for a drying rack!

    I found the most helpful thing in my kitchen has been making more room in my cupboards with those wire shelves that you can get. They can double cupboard space, and then you can store some of the counter top items inside. Also, I use my china cabinet in my adjacent dining room to store some lesser used items, and if needed (right now there is grain hiding out in there) I put some lesser used dishes on top of the cupboards. Its not ideal in open concept as it looks slightly odd but better than grain up there LOL.

  3. hahaha! Your kitchen is as “petite” as mine is! Our house before this one had a HUGE kitchen and pantry, so it’s been a real challenge. Appliances I don’t use often are stashed all over the house.
    .-= Ruthie´s last blog ..Coupon Lingo =-.

  4. LOL! This is a great post! I would love to have a grand kitchen to work in, but my kitchen is also small. Bigger than yours by one small counter, but still small when you cook all of your own food. We have been house shopping and we found a house that had a HUGE kitchen with counters on both sides of the kitchen that were 10 feet long. What a dream. Unfortunately, the seller did not like our offer and *poof*, away went that dream kitchen. I am about to get a kitchen that is smaller than yours to work in. Ugh. I am determined to make do, though! I’ll have to get some shelves and racks like you have. BTW, you are not the only one who “stores” her cast iron on the stove. I do too. Those things are just too darned heavy to heft everywhere and where in the world would one put a pot rack in a “petit” kitchen?
    .-= Stacy´s last blog ..Thrifting! =-.

  5. I’m with you all on the “petite” kitchen. I have only one more counter than you, but with my microwave on one of my counters, I’m back to the same amount of counter space as you have. I’ll definitely have to get some of the shelf things for in the cupboard. Wanna hear something hilarious?? I actually have some of those. They are in my freezer that’s over the fridge. I use them to organize the freezer, since it is the only freezer I have. I dream of one day having a stand-alone freezer, and a pantry. for now, it’s just 8 cabinets and counter space. Thanks for the ideas!
    .-= Becky C´s last blog ..My "New" Stand Mixer =-.

  6. My kitchen is nearly as “petite” we also have a lot of VERY narrow cupboards. I’ve found that storing things in the oven is great (plus in the winter it doens’t get as cold in there) and getting rid of extra appliances, “tupperware” and other odds and ends helps. for temprary cold storage I still use plastic dutch tupperware. But now I only keep a few sizes: yogurt, stout sour cream, cool whip, and margerine tubs ( My inlaws have not been converted 🙁 ). I gifted my bread machine and a few other things. I keep my home canned goods in the basement so I don;t keep many store bought canned goods in the cupboard. I’m very careful about what I buy. When we get something new or repace something I has to take up the same or less space or nestle into soemthing else we have. (Since I got married 3 years ago we were able to get a lot of what we (I) wanted or return it for things that worked). One of my favorite things is see through plastic tubs. I store a lot of loose things in them so that they stay corraled (onions, potatoes, oatmeal varietys, grains, beans). Hope that helps. I also keep only two appliances on the counter (toaster oven and microwave)

  7. I too have a petite kitchen, and no dishwasher and I feed a family of seven. Oh it only has one double outlet on one side of the counter. I have very limited cupboard space thanks to a very large window above my sink, but I do love the natural light and the view! I have to remind myself to be CONTENT!!!

    My kitchen has a microwave built in above the stove which I no longer use since I discovered Nourishing Traditions. I store my cast iron skillets in there! This time of year when I need to cool a large pot of something, it goes outside on the deck. I’d really like to have a dehydrator, but have not b/c of the space issue.

  8. Funny. 🙂 My kitchen’s not quite that small but i still have trouble putting stuff everywhere when I’ve got grains soaking, kefir fermenting, plus I’m chopping, baking, doing stock…oh, like this weekend! lol.
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Sexual Purity =-.

  9. I find my wood cutting board balances quite nicely on that double sink divider too, I do alot of my chopping there, it’s close to my compost bin (or I grab a dirty bowl from the sink to toss my scraps in & dump in the bin later) and convenient for washing the fruits or veggies first too.

    And I store my cast iron skillets on my stove all the time too (2 of them, stacked on top of each other (one’s enough smaller to stack nicely inside the other), if I’m using all the burners chances are I’m also using one or both skillets, if not, I pop them in the oven for storage (if it’s not in use) but usually I leave them on the stove, there IS room for htem in my pots/pans cupboard, under the pots & pans, but they’re so heavy & I use them so often it’s just easier ot leave them out.

    My kitchen is small, and limited on counter space, BUT it’s a 100+ old house that’s been a rental for many many years (no idea how many) and over hte years people have added lots of useful creative storage solutions thoughout the house but especially in the kitchen. I think my favorite is the shelf over the door to teh basement, it’s a PERFECT place for cookbooks! Oh, and there’s a huge long mantle over what used to be a fireplace (and now has a small “desk” area built into it that’s rather useless since there’s no electricity on that wall, though the lower countertop there is a good height for my 6 yr olds to help in the kitchen, anyway, the mantle is a great place to store my jars & canisters of dry beans, sugars, herbs, etc etc etc.
    .-= Sweetpeas´s last blog ..Book Review: Raising Maidens of VIrtue =-.

  10. Great post… I always get so many great ideas here 🙂
    About that space at the front of the double sink – if you’re not the only one in the kitchen, its not always a good idea… I can’t tell you how may things have been dumped or broken in my kitchen by being knocked off from there! Could be we’re just a bit more klutzy that other families, lol.

  11. LOVE this post! Especially since I have that same oven, microwave, calander, and side table! And believe me I often set drying pasta in the sink like that

    Haha A+ ladies

  12. Thanks for this, I’m glad someone else has a kitchen like mine (same layout, same space, same kind of clutter, I’m sure more people do to, we just don’t get to see them!). I felt like I was failing in my job of home keeping every time I went in the kitchen, but hey, good food comes out and it does get cleaned regularly, there’s just no room! I also hate dishes and those double sinks make it seem like there are mountains of dishes! Again thanks, I feel much better about my crazy space and also a little inspired to re-organize in there!

    : )

  13. I have a tiny kitchen also and I keep thinking that I need to put up some shelves to help me out. Thanks for the reminder to get it done!

  14. I had a petite kitchen, too. My husband named it Hallee’s Galley because it was no bigger than a ship’s kitchen – lol.
    .-= Hallee´s last blog ..Red Handed =-.

  15. Amy M,
    I had just a bit of apple cider that had gone too long. @lactoferment told me I could mix in a bit of raw ACV and it would all turn into ACV. I just tried that and it seems to work! ??
    .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Monday Mission: Eat Fewer Grains =-.

  16. So familiar! Love it! My favs: The collander on the dirty dishes and the pots draining on the stovetop and an added bonus, if you let them drain after cooking, the water disolves gunk on the stove before swiping it off.

  17. Thank you so much for all the insight and your research and time you have put into this. It is such a blessing.
    Small kitchens are my worst nightmare. But we (my husband and I) moved from our large (1500 sq ft) old farm house with a huge kitchen, pantry, root celler, and canning room to a small (350 sq ft) apartment in the city. Now we are facing the next move in our lives to an effency studio apartment (200 sq ft). As a professional chef and a firm believer in cooking from scratch adn eating as nutritously as possible the down sizing is quite the challenge. The apartment we will be moving to has no counter space at all, seriously. This is a challenge. I am looking forward to it. This site like I have said before is such an encouragement and help for me. Living in the city is such a forgin thing for me and this is a big help.

  18. I love the idea of the shelf over the doorway. I also use the space above my cabinets. I have some decor but it also hold canned goods and other *stuff*.
    My iron skillets sit in the oven. If they are accidentally left in while the oven is turned on, it does nothing more than season my skillets a little bit more 🙂

  19. This looks EXACTLY like the way my kitchen is set up, same counter space (or lack thereof) laid out the exact same way. I hate my kitchen but it will have to do so I make it do 🙂

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